Riverside School hamper program gets a big boost

Riverside School staff Matt Pelerine, Laura McDonald and Theresa Thorsen pose with Safeway owner Wes Erlendson (second from left) behind a donation of food for the school’s Christmas hamper program. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A contribution of $2,500 in food from Safeway will help the program send hampers home with more families this year

Thanks to a big donation from a local business, Riverside School students will be able to take home a Christmas hamper this year.

Monday morning, Safeway Prince Albert donated $2,500 worth of food items to the Riverside School hamper program. The donation included traditional holiday foods such as turkey, ham, cake and stuffing, along with pantry staples such as bread, milk, margarine, cheese, eggs and oranges. Safeway worked with the school to generate a list of food items that were needed for the hamper project.

“We have so many families that are reliant on our breakfast and lunch programs at our school,” said Laura McDonald, school social worker.

“Not only do we have the Christmas dinner food, we also include some staples…to help them get through that Christmas break away from school. All this food is going to families at our school.”

McDonald has been working at Riverside for seven years. The hamper program was already up and running when she got there.

“It’s something we do with volunteer hours, certain people at our school,” she said.

“We rely on grants and asking for donations. We dropped off a letter and (Wes Erlendson) gave us a call for this generous donation.”

The skids of food will help expand the hamper program this year. Typically, Riverside puts about 50 hampers together with food items. But thanks to Erlendson and Safeway, the program can expand to about 75 hampers this year and include a gift such as a blanket or board game in each.

The donation included Christmas staples such as turkey or ham, as well as everyday staples such as milk, eggs and bread. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

“As a company, Safeway values investment in community, and as an individual, I embrace that,” Erlendson said.

“I believe in it myself. I’m very community minded. It’s a real opportunity to step in and help a front-line organization working with those that are disadvantaged make a difference in people’s lives.”

McDonald said staff at Riverside were blown away by the generosity.

“I think there were a few tears,” she said.

“We’re hugely gracious because this helped us give that many more families help.”